Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is both a welcome return for a platforming classic and a novel expansion of what made the game so special back on the Wii U. There’s a solid chance that millions of players missed out on its excellence back in 2013, so now is the perfect time to take it for a spin.
- Filled with excellent level design and satisfying platforming
- A delight to play, both alone and with friends
- Still looks and plays brilliantly on Nintendo Switch
- Bowser’s Fury is a joyous expansion for new and returning fans
- Design is simplistic compared to Odyssey and Galaxy
- Bowser can be a bit of a nuisance at times
- Review Price: £49.99
- Developer: Nintendo
- Genre: Platformer
- Release Date: 12/02/2021
- Platform: Nintendo Switch
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is an anomaly in the world of Nintendo platformers. It’s both a classic homage to the structure of its 2D origins, and a bold exploration of new ideas that refuses to abide by the standards set by the Super Mario Galaxy series before it.
It’s also daringly simplistic, hurling players onto a board of worlds with distinct themes and locales, before giving them the freedom to progress through levels alone or with a group of friends. This new port for the Nintendo Switch adds a few subtle enhancements, but the base game remains the same as it did on the Wii U back in 2013, and that’s no bad thing.
However, it’s bolstered by the inclusion of Bowser’s Fury. This is a brief yet brilliant adventure, starring Cat Mario as he explores an island in search of adorable feline collectibles. But be careful, our titular plumber must also avoid a calamitous depiction of Bowser who could awaken at any moment, twisting the world into a blistering hellscape of fire and brimstone.
Even after eight long years, Super Mario 3D World remains a masterfully executed platformer that’s a joy to play. Each level is immaculately designed, brimming with novel ideas and creative designs that instil a sense of wonder that few games can achieve. While brief, Bowser’s Fury is a complimentary beauty that expands upon its formula in some delightfully imaginative ways.
After eight long years, this is still Nintendo platforming at its best
- The core experience is enhanced with improved controls and shinier visuals
- This is still one of Mario’s finest platformers, and will be a new outing for millions on Switch
Super Mario 3D World doesn’t open with Princess Peach being kidnapped. Bowser clearly isn’t into her anymore, opting instead to imprison fairy-like creatures known as Sprixies, spreading them across the land for Mario, Luigi, Toad and Peach to uncover. I opted for my main-man Luigi, who is easily the most stylish of the quartet as he dashes across each stage with a lovable dose of clumsiness.
Each character controls differently, although the basic act of running, jumping and throwing remains consistent through all of them. Playing alone allows each level to feel like a meditative exercise in hoovering up all three green stars and the elusive hidden stamp, while bringing a few friends into the mix unleashes untold amounts of chaos.
I found myself erupting into bouts of laughter as I accidentally hurled allies into the abyss, dwindling our lives down as we slowly but surely reached the finish line. Fortunately, 3D World makes a few useful concessions, so multiplayer doesn’t turn into a bloodbath. Power-ups are shared, meaning if someone picks up four fire flowers by mistake then they can still be distributed evenly.
Some hidden items are also much easier to find with a friend, alleviating the need for precision platforming. Those still after a sinister slice of competition will be happy to learn that the crown makes a return, planting a gaudy monument to victory on the head of one player at the end of the stage. It can be callously stolen, making multiplayer sessions anarchic jumbles of cloddish competition that fit the tone of 3D World beautifully.
This port also incorporates online multiplayer functionality, which worked very well throughout testing, displaying minimal latency. Progress is tied to the player who opens the lobby, meaning you’ll need to earn stars and other collectibles for a second time in your own world. I prefer this approach, since there’s a huge difference between playing alone and with an avaricious group of friends.
Many of the worlds follow archetypes you’d expect from the franchise. Green hills, scorching deserts and snow-covered mountains are all present and accounted for. Aside from the expected arenas, each world houses a healthy number of excellent surprises that go against the grain of Mario’s usual design conventions.
One stage places an emphasis on shadows as they emit pitch-black spectres onto walls, forcing me to reconsider my perspective and move towards the screen in pursuit of new discoveries. Another introduces new cherry power-ups that allow Mario to multiply. You’ll need to bring as many versions of yourself to the finish line as possible to activate platforms and panels, an act that’s made infinitely easier with two or more players.
Moments such as this help 3D World shine, as it hurls out creative highlights that other platformers would sacrifice so much for – but here they’re a dime a dozen, cementing how Nintendo remain masters of the genre. I’ll admit that 3D World is rather simplistic in its design, doing away with any semblance of a hub world or progression beyond its core collectibles. This might be a drawback for some, just as it was back in 2013.
Bowser’s Fury is an inventive expansion with so many cool ideas
- Bowser’s Fury is a brilliant expansion of the ideas first explored in 3D World and Odyssey
- Working alongside Bowser Jr is a fun twist on co-op mechanics, making you think outside the box
Bowser’s Fury exists independently of 3D World, and can be selected from the main menu. You play as Mario, although a second player can take control of Bowser Jr in order to take down enemies and hunt after Cat Shines together. The premise is simple: Mario finds himself in a new realm that’s been taken over by a mysterious darkness. Even Bowser has been affected, with his adorable son begging our hero for help.
He cries for help while displaying a cutesy selection of hand-painted illustrations, getting his point across without a single line of dialogue. From here, you’re given ample freedom to explore a selection of land masses that feel like fully fledged levels in their own right. It honestly feels like a cohesive mixture of 3D World and the open elements of Super Mario Odyssey.
The showdown with Fury Bowser channels the spirit of classic kaiju cinema, as you grow into a towering feline known as Giga Cat. Now on a level playing field, the prehistoric pariah has to do battle with a plumber with a sudden interest in the furry community. Showdowns such as this are tremendous fun, and grow in scale as you unlock additional islands upon collecting the illustrious Cat Shines.
A simplistic island filled with meowing kittens and luscious greenery gives way to landmasses awash with slippery ice and scorching lava, each offering distinct puzzles that feel like complete levels in their own right. It’s a creative mixture of elements from 3D World, Odyssey and even Galaxy in some respects. Being able to freely dance between levels atop Plessie is exhilarating, especially when you’re given obstacle courses to soar through.
One of my major complaints about Bowser’s Fury is actually Bowser himself. While boss battles against him are joyous, having him randomly pop up to cause chaos while you’re in the middle of conquering a stage is frustrating. He throws your progress through a loop, and there’s often no way to send him packing without engaging in combat, which itself isn’t always a viable option.
I’d often hide until he went away, hoping he’d break a few otherwise impenetrable fury blocks to earn me a few extra shines. Given he’s the titular character, sighing in annoyance when the screen blackens and his monolithic form begins screwing lava probably isn’t what Nintendo had intended. But it remains a gorgeous spectacle.
Veteran players of 3D World might be miffed by the brief runtime of Bowser’s Fury, and how it feels like a standalone adventure as opposed to expansion of 3D World’s level-based affair – and such a complaint is more than valid. However, I had a blast with the few short hours it takes to complete, eagerly hoovering up each and every collectible I came across. Part of me hopes that the design elements explored here will be delved into further in future games.
You should buy Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury if…
If you never had the opportunity to play Super Mario 3D World back on the Wii U, this is an essential platforming experience. It’s wonderful, and easily one of Mario’s finest outings on any platform. And while brief, Bowser’s Fury is a great expansion that’s excellent in its own right.
You shouldn’t buy Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury if…
You’re looking for lots of new content after playing the original on Wii U. While Bowser’s Fury is a great addition, the standalone adventure is also very brief and isn’t really worth the game’s high price alone.